Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Review: CTC Math

I've mentioned before that I started working part time at the beginning of this year.  Since I'm home less often, I have less time to teach.  Therefore, I was excited to have the opportunity to review CTC Math.  We were given a subscription to the 12 Month Family Plan to review. 

CTC Math is an online math program for grades K-12.  The Family Plan provided access for up to 10 students.  There are 1,367 math lessons, along with 57,000 math questions.
There are 16 different courses you can choose from:
  • Kindergarten-6th grade math
  • Basic Math and Pre-Algebra
  • Elementary Measurement
  • Elementary Geometry
  • Algebra I
  • Algebra II
  • Geometry
  • Trigonometry
  • Pre-Calc
  • Calculus
Inside the different courses are different streams you can choose from.  In the kindergarten through 6th grade courses there are four different streams:  "Numbers, Patterns, and Algebra", "Measurement", "Space and Geometry," and "Statistics and Probability".  The other courses are broken down into either 2, 3, or 4 parts.

Inside the different streams are different topics.  This is where you'll find the lessons and problem sets.  You can either have your student work through all the lessons, or you can have them take the diagnostic tests provided for each topic.  By having your student take the diagnostic test, you can potentially skip lessons that your student doesn't need work on.

If you are looking for lessons on a particular topic, there is a search function that works pretty well.  If you type in a topic, such as division, it will bring up the lessons in the order they come up in the program.  You can play the lessons directly from the search window, or you can open the topic.

You can also pull up printable reports for each student.  There are summary reports and detailed reports.  The summary report lets you know how your students are doing overall, while the detailed report gives you a breakdown for how they're doing with each topic.  From the Parent's login, you have the option to change the percentage correct needed to pass a topic.

In addition to the lessons, there is also a "Speed Skills" option.  From this button, your student can work on the speed at which they can answer math facts.  There are 4 different levels, and the four basic operations are covered (single and multi-digit), along with division with a remainder and order of operations.
CTC Math Review
Using this program is fairly straightforward.  The student watches a lesson online, and then completes the problem set, and I used this program at grade level with my 6th, 4th, and 2nd grade sons.  I had them begin with the first stream and topic for their grade levels and work through sequentially. 

All three of the boys told me at different times that they love the teaching and find it very easy to understand.  The teaching is done my Pat Murray, who is a father of 10.  They also enjoyed the fact that lessons are short.  They could complete a lesson and problem set in 15 minutes. 

I liked that I could easily glance (from any computer with online access) at what they were working on, when they last logged in, and how they were doing.  I also liked that they're able to continue to progress in math, even if I'm not always readily available to teach.  It's a huge bonus that they like the program as well, and it's great that they can take diagnostic tests so they don't have to do stuff they're already solid in.
The 12 Month Family Plan we received is currently available at a discounted price of $118.80 for homeschoolers.  As you can see below, there are several other pricing options available:
If you are looking for a solid, complete math program for any student in your homeschool, make sure you check out the parent and student friendly CTC Math.
CTC Math Review

Check out CTC Math on Facebook:  Facebook CTC Math

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Monday, April 21, 2014

Review: Philosophy Adventure

Thinking.  Writing.  Speaking.  Biblical worldview.  These are all things I want to teach well in our homeschool.  Therefore, I was excited to get the opportunity to review Philosophy Adventure from Home School Adventure Co..
The program includes:
  • Reader
  • Student Workbook
  • Teacher's Resources
There are a few different options for purchasing, ranging from a printed and CD combo to a complete digital downloadable version.  I received the digital download version, and it is priced at $39.95.

Philosophy Adventure revolves around the Reader.  This is a lovely, full color book that contains the stories, articles, and assignments.  For example, the first lesson is on Thales (the father of Western Philosophy, and to whom the quote "Know thyself." is attributed.  It begins with explaining who Thales is and why he is important.  There is a nice sidebar that gives pertinent information, like when he lived and who his contemporaries were (Ezekiel, Buddha, and Pythagoras, are a few, if you were wondering).

There are colored coded sections within each lesson.  The first is the red "Write" section.  This contains writing assignments.  In the first lesson, the student is asked to grapple with big questions, like "Where did I come from and why am I here?".  There are no wrong answers, and the student is told to set a timer for 30 minutes.  They are instructed to read their answers aloud when finished, and to make sure they are true for what they believe today.

The second is the green "Think" section.  In this section, students read about what Thales thought.  It discusses when Thales lived, and the possibility that he was exposed to Hebrew scriptures.  In the assignment section, students are challenged to develop their memorization skills, especially for the purpose of memorizing the Bible.

The third is the brown "Speak" section.  In this section, students are exposed to more of Thales' ideas.  In the assignment for this section, students are told to answer 3 questions in their "Write Think Speak" journal.  One of these questions is "Can you identify a prize for which you would be willing to suffer?".  Again, not an easy question, but one that will truly cause the student to think.

Following the Write, Think, and Speak sections are sections that include geography, additional information on the philosophers and their contemporaries and world, and a section that includes writings by philosophers. The final section analyzes the information within the context of a Biblical worldview.

The other major portion of this course is the Student Workbook.  This workbook contains questions about the readings in the Reader, along with a map to color.  This map also includes a space to record facts learned in the Reader about each place on the map.  There is also a creative writing assignment.  For the Thales section, the student is asked to describe seeing an old man falling into a well.  The assignment gives the student several tips to help them get started, and they are instructed to set the timer for 15 minutes.  The Student Workbook also contains the "Write Think Speak" journal referenced above.  This gives the student a place to write and answer the questions in the Reader.  You have the option of printing the workbook and having your student handwrite the answers, or having your student type the answers into the workbook before printing.  In order to do the mapping assignments, you will need to print the workbook at some point.

The final portion of the program are the Teacher's Resources.  This portion includes memory cards, timeline resources (printable timelines & images), map keys, & quizzes.

While this program is designed for grades 6-12, I would be hesitant to use it with a 6th or 7th grader, and possibly some 8th graders.  I think that students who are in high school will get far more out of this program than middle school students.  Depending on how you use the program, you can award the following high school credits:
I used this with Luke (9th) and Ezekiel (8th).  There is scheduling help in the front of the Reader, so it was easy to decide how much to use every day, and the program can be used either four or five days a week.  Since I received the digital download version, I had the boys download the Student Workbook and Reader to their laptops.  They read the Reader on their computer, and I had them type their answers in the workbook.  I had technical difficulties when trying to print, so they didn't actually get the opportunity to do the map work, though they were able to answer the questions about the map.  I liked that it wasn't time intensive for me; I could tell them what to do each day and they were able to do it without assistance from me. 

The only thing I would change is the layout of the Student Workbook.  It is split into two sections--the notebook & mapwork section, and the "Think Write Speak" journal.  There are assignments for each lesson in the reader in both sections, and I think it would be so much easier to use if the assignments for each lesson were together.  Of course, you can do this yourself if you print the workbook.

I love the way Philosophy Adventure made the boys think.  I've mentioned before that I think knowing your worldview is very important, and I love the way this program had them think through what they really think.  It is a challenging program (it's easier not to think, after all), but oh, it's so very important.  Luke & Ezekiel both liked the program.  They both think it is challenging, but well worth their time, and would like to continue.
Home School Adventure Co. is offering a 10% discount on download purchases.  This discount expires May 15, 2014:
 Check out Home School Adventure Co. on:




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Thursday, April 10, 2014

Fire Safety

"I believe everyone should shave their bodies so they're less flammable.  Don't you think that's a good idea?". --Micah

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Review: Victus Study Skills System

I'm pretty positive that I'm not the only homeschooling mom who struggles with teaching her students study skills. When the boys were younger, it wasn't a big deal.  But now that my older boys are, well...older, it's been something that's more on my mind.  Because of this, I was excited to receive the Student Workbook ($20) and Teacher Edition ($40) from  Victus Study Skills System.  This study skills system can be used with all ages, but is best suited for grades 5 through 12.

The Teacher Edition begins with the philosophy of the Victus Study Skills System.  I found this section very important to read in order to fully understand the system.  This introduction is followed by an explanation of how to best use the program.  This first section gives several helpful tips and techniques to help you become a more effective teacher of the program, as well as a sample plan on how to teach the lessons.

The second section in the Teacher Edition contains the lessons.  These lessons are not scripted, but instead they give you the big ideas behind the lessons and some teaching suggestions for introducing the lesson, as well as instructions for teaching the lesson.  These instructions are written to you, the teacher, and you will want to read them before hand because you will need to put them into your own words to teach the lesson.  A very helpful feature of the Teacher Edition is that it includes reduced versions of the pages in the Student Workbook, so you will know what your child is looking at and working on for the lesson. 

The third section contains reinforcement exercises for the course.  Most of these pages are views of what is included in the Student Workbook.

The Student Workbook begins by giving an introduction of the Victus Study Skills System to the student.  It's always good and helpful to know why we are doing things, and I know my homeschoolers haven't always seen the need for study skills.
There are 10 lessons in the program. Each lesson takes about 1/2 hour to complete, though you can break them up as needed.  Younger students will take longer to complete the lessons than high school students. 
There are three "Foundational Cornerstones" to the program:
  1. Where am I now?
  2. Where do I want to be?
  3. How do I get there?
Lessons 1 and 2 make up the "Where am I now?" cornerstone.  In order to get where you want to go, you need to really know where you are.  Lesson 3 makes up the "Where do I want to be?" cornerstone.  Here your student will set goals and create a mission statement.  This allows them to truly define where they want to end up.  Lessons 4 through 10 make up the "How do I get there?" cornerstone.  This cornerstone contains the nitty-gritty of how to actually study.  Time management, note taking, and test taking are just 3 of the six skills covered.  If you'd like to view the table of contents and a sample page, you can do so on the Victus Study Skills System product page.

When I first received the program, I was a bit overwhelmed.  I understood the beginning lessons; it's important to know where your student is and what their learning style is.  But once the lessons shifted over to goal setting and creating a mission statement, I froze.  I've never been good with this process.  I always have a goal in mind, but ask me to write it down and I panic.  Mention "mission statement" and my mind quickly empties.  Thankfully, the lessons walk you through this process and make it fairly painless (or at least make it possible, even for those like me whose minds go blank when this information is requested).  The actual study skills lessons were a bit easier for me to grasp.  There are great tips that I never would've thought of directly teaching, like explaining how to use shorthand when taking notes.  I also appreciated the fact that the pages are clean and uncluttered, and I liked that there are inspirational quotes sprinkled throughout the book.

Since I don't have a lot of large blocks of teaching time anymore, I appreciated that the lessons could easily be broken up or extended to fit the amount of time I had available.  Thankfully, my son (11) didn't pick up on any of my nervousness about the middle part of the program, and he did well with the lessons.  I know I'll need to keep working with him and remind him to use what he's learned.  I think the skills and information are so helpful and worthwhile that I'm going to go through the program with my 14 & 13 year old sons this summer.

If your students, like mine, need instruction on how to study, make sure you check out Victus Study Skills System.  The importance of learning how to study is summed up in the quote on the front of both the Teacher Edition and Student Workbook:
"For the sole true end of education is simply this:  to teach men how to learn for themselves; and whatever instruction fails to do this is effort spend in vain."      --Dorothy Sayers

Check out Victus Study Skills System on social media:
Twitter: @VictusStudy

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Saturday, April 05, 2014

Review: The Jesus Bible

Nicholas was in need of a new Bible.  His Bible was the International Children's Version, and he was the 5th boy to use it, and it was falling apart.  He was also asking for a different translation--the International Children's Version is wonderful for younger children, but he wanted a translation like his brothers.

Therefore, when I had the opportunity to review The Jesus Bible (NIV), we were both thrilled.  This Bible is intended for ages 9-12.  The subtitle is "Discover Jesus in Every Book of the Bible".  Even the events of the Old Testament point to Jesus, and there are 365 devotions that point to this fact, as well as where Jesus is seen in the New Testament.  In addition, each book of the Bible has an introduction, and part of these introductions include "Where is Jesus in this book?".  The introductions also have other helpful information, such as who the key people are, when it took place, etc.  There is a timeline of Jesus's life, as well as a simplified family tree.

The font of this Bible is an easy on the eyes brown color, and the accent color is red.  Words of Christ are in red.  There are additional helps:  maps, concordance, and lists of the devotions.  It's a nice, sturdy hardcover, and has held up to Nicholas's 8 year old boy ways.  Most importantly, he loves this Bible.  He's talked to me about some of the devotions, and has mentioned that he is learning a lot.  I like that it's pointing him to Jesus.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <http://booklookbloggers.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Review: Spelling You See

Demme Learning, of Math-U-See fame, has a new member in their family:  Spelling You See.  We were given the opportunity to review Spelling You See: American Spirit (Level E).  
Spelling You See Review

There are currently 5 levels available in the Spelling You See program:
  • Listen and Write (Level A)
  • Jack and Jill (Level B)
  • Wild Tales (Level C)
  • Americana (Level D)
  • American Spirit (Level E)
There are two more levels on the horizon:
  • Ancient Achievements (Level F)
  • Modern Milestones (Level G)
Spelling You See Review
There are five developmental stages of spelling, according to Dr. Karen Holinga, who is the creator of Spelling You See.  These stages are (you can read more about each stage on the Spelling You See website):
  1. Preliterate
  2. Phonetic
  3. Skill Development
  4. Word Extension
  5. Derivational Constancy
The idea behind Spelling You See is that a student must master one stage before moving on to the next.  Because of this, there are no grade levels on the Spelling You See books.  You can read more about each level and download sample lessons to help determine placement by visiting the Spelling You See website.

Spelling You See Review

There are 36 lessons in each level of Spelling You See, and each lesson is broken down into 5 parts.  While it is important that you and your child are consistent with spelling lessons, I found it a bit of a relief that the Instructor's Handbook states that it is okay to move along to the next lesson without completing the previous lesson.  I don't know about you, but sometimes I get bogged down in finishing every last bit, even if life has interrupted and thrown us a bit off schedule, so it is reassuring to know that the ideas and concepts and words and patterns being taught will come up again in future lessons. 
American Spirit (Level E) is designed for children who are in at least fourth grade, who read well, and who are moving along with spelling.  A student new to Spelling You See should start here, in this level.  The package comes with 2 Student Workbooks and a pack of erasable colored pencils ($30) and there is also an Instructor's Handbook ($14).

How exactly, then, does Spelling You See work?

This program has your student studying the patterns of spelling through the use of chunking, copywork, and dictation.  Chunking is simply using a simple color coding system to mark various patterns in words:  vowel chunks (such as "ou"), consonant chunks (such as "wh"), bossy r chunks  (such as "ir"), tricky y guy (such as "baby"), endings (such as "ing"), and silent letters (such as the "b" in thumb). 

In American Spirit, each lesson is centered around a single passage about people or events in American history.  Because the same passage is used for a week, the student really gets a chance to internalize the words in the passage.  Before any pencil work is completed for the day, you are instructed to read the passage to your student, and then read the passage slowly together, paying close attention to the words.  Finally, you use the color coded chunking method to chunk the passage.

Copywork is used on days 1-3 of each lesson.  The student is asked to copy portions of the same passage over each of these three days.  However, if you have a student who is a slow writer or struggles with penmanship, you might find it comforting to know that you are instructed to have your child stop copying after 10 minutes, even if they're not finished.  After the child finishes the copywork, they then mark their copywork passage with the color coded chunking described above.

Dictation is completed on days 4-5 of each lesson.  The two days of dictation are slightly different from each other, but like the copywork days, you are instructed to stop after 10 minutes.  On day 4, the "First Dictation", you read the passage slowly and watch your student write each word.  You help them with capitalization and punctuation, and you also help them spell any words that they misspell.  You correct these immediately, because you don't want incorrect spellings to stick in their heads.  You want to discuss the different chunks that come up in the dictation as you work through the passage.  On day 5, the "Second Dictation",  the goal is for the student to write the passage as you dictate it, but with minimal help. 
Spelling You See Review
I used this program with Micah, my 4th grader.  I found the instructions in the Instructor's Handbook to be very helpful and necessary; it really explained the program methods (in addition to including an answer key).  Without it, I wouldn't have known exactly what to do.  We followed the methods outlined above, so lessons took about 20-30 minutes, depending on how long we took to read the passage and chunk.  For us, this was the only downfall of the program.  With five children, it is difficult to regularly carve out that much time for spelling.
We both really liked the color/visual aspect of chunking in this program.  I liked that it incorporated little lessons in American history into our spelling lesson, and I also love that it makes copywork and dictation fairly painless for me, the teacher.  Micah is a decent speller, but he still doesn't enjoy the physical act of writing.  Knowing that he could stop copywork and dictation after 10 minutes was an encouragement to him. 

If you're looking for a sequential, colorful, and fun spelling program for your child, you should check out Spelling You See from Demme Learning.
Check out Spelling You See on Facebook and Twitter!
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Saturday, March 29, 2014

Coolest Cousin Ever

How do you earn the title of "Coolest Cousin Ever"? Leave your wedding reception in a helicopter.  In the words of Luke, after a day of wedding ceremony, wearing-of-tie, and tea party reception:
"This made it all so totally worth it."

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Future Politician

Micah:  "Did Nick ask you any questions?"
Me:  "No.  What was he going to ask me?"
Micah:  "I don't know.  Just a question."
Me:  (raised eyebrow)
Micah:  "Why are you looking at me weird?"
Me:  "I think you're up to no good."
Micah:  "Well, that depends on your definition of 'no good'".